Green politics is transformative or it is irrelevant
This was, of course, entirely unrelated to the fact two senior politicians from the corporate controlled political parties had been caught offering to sell influence. Still, the interviews didn’t show Green politics in its best light – focusing on how a massive programme of house building would be paid for. And they were a platform for the usual mainstream attacks on Greens: that our politics would require too much of a change from the system we’ve got.
This morning on the Today programme the line of attack was that “Greens should be just that: a party about the environment”. Of course this ignores the reality that Green politics has never been so one-dimensional as to be just about the environment. More importantly it is an attempt to force the Green Party away from the fundamental heart of Green Politics: that you can’t divide environmental problems from social and economic problems. We know that the solution to the environmental crisis is the same solution as that to social and economic crises: a fundamental change to our economic system that puts people first.
The attack from much of the media is that we can’t tell them exactly what the world would look like after we’ve freed ourselves from corporate control. It is the same attack used on the Yes side in the Scottish Referendum. Could we answer 500 questions about what the world (not just Scotland, the world) would be like after a Yes vote? And of course we couldn’t. The fact that many of the questions couldn’t be answered about the world after a ‘No’ vote was irrelevant, if you want change you need to be able to provide precise details of what effect that change will have. And for a while the Yes campaign, and particularly the SNP played along with this. Scotland would be exactly the same as it is now, only with lower corporation tax. One senior member of the Yes campaign told me that we couldn’t say we were anti-cuts, because that was ‘activist language.’
By trying to win independence with a marketing campaign saying that change would mean no change, we lost the referendum.
Greens must avoid that trap. We must learn from the period in the referendum when the Yes side gave the British establishment an almighty fright. This was the period when the Yes side talked about how Scotland could be different, and how the world could be different. We know that Green policies are popular. And everyone knows that we need more housing. These are transformative policies. They can’t be explained in the terms of the current system. But everyone (outside the bubble of corporate controlled politics) knows that the current system is broken.
There will be voices calling for a retreat from bold and popular policies like Citizens’ Income and a massive programme of investment through house building. Many who feel more at home with Greens boxing ourselves into our comfort zone and talking exclusively about allotments or cycling will argue that is what we should do. The result will be a return to the periphery, to the comfortable margins. This election offers the biggest chance for change in decades. That change will be transformative and we must not shy away from that. Greens need to be at the heart of politics and the heart of change.
We need to keep championing the changes we really need: an end to austerity through investing in much needed housing, a £10 minimum wage, and taking the railways and utilities into public control. A media used to politicians bought by corporate interests won’t like it, but the electorate will. More importantly the people on the brunt of austerity need us to stay true to our principles. We have to build a new politics, free from corporate control that can solve our economic, social and environmental crises. Now is the time for a transformation. The case won’t be easy to make, but we must not stop making it.